What is the mind? We talk about it, we are convinced of the existence of the mind, but what is it, really? The brain? Not exactly—the brain is the physical gray matter inside the skull. Is the so-called mind inside the brain? Show me! I have looked and looked, and I cannot find one trace of it. And yet, thoughts occur—that seems undeniable. Endlessly.
I have been told by scientists, my parents, teachers, that thoughts occur in the mind—not only that thoughts occur, but that I am responsible for the creation of my own thoughts. To carry this further, I was told not only that I have a mind, but that it is “my” mind—that somehow I have ownership over this unfindable object.
But after persistent questioning, “my” and ownership are not my experience. Untraceable flashes of thought arise—unbidden by me—and then vanish just as quickly, all within this “mind” I cannot find, nor that I can seemingly control. For the purpose of discussion, I like to speak of the one unfindable mind rather than many singular ones. We all seem to have a similar experience—when examined—of unasked-for for thoughts popping up rather like sulfur bubbles in a mud pool, and then disappearing; and of a busy, uncontrollable “mind” that seemingly runs on autopilot—a whole world of unrequested commentary.
So what is the value in redefining my relationship with my mind? Sufi Inayat Khan spoke of the mind as being like a horse—wild and out of control—that needs reining in. Beset with anxiety about what the future would hold for my disabled son, for example, I attempted that reining in for decades, to no avail. I could slow it, but in truth, not control it. When I heard the teaching of Nisargadatta—an Indian sage of the twentieth century—describe becoming disinterested in the content of the so-called mind, this direction rang true for me. The mind runs and frets; there is no ownership; it’s not personal. Thus began the slow disengagement with the content. Because it does not belong to me, it is simply not my concern.
Don’t take my word on this. Look for yourself. Set aside your beliefs, set aside what you have been taught. You can always pick the beliefs back up. Both be the detective of your own experience, and be very, very truthful with yourself. Again, again, yet again—look for both the source of your mind and the source of the thoughts.
© Amrita Skye Blaine, 2013